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February 21, 2005
No Mandate for Broadcast Flag Tech Mandate
The New York Times runs a piece laudably underscoring the fact that Congress didn't require the FCC to implement the broadcast flag technology mandate. Instead, the Commission responded directly to representatives of the motion picture industry, which has so far failed to demonstrate that the flag will do anyone any good.
Later: Prof. Felten casts a critical eye on other aspects of the piece, pointing out that the author draws the wrong conclusions about the flag: "If the Broadcast Flag actually did reduce infringement, then imposing it would only reduce broadcasters' incentive to switch to high-res broadcast. Looking at the evidence, though, it could hardly be more clear that the Broadcast Flag won't reduce the availability of P2P content at all...The real story here, for an enterprising reporter, lies in how the MPAA convinced the FCC to mandate the Broadcast Flag despite offering only these weak arguments in the public proceeding."
Later #2: Mike Godwin, who is quoted in the NYT piece:
The article's not bad, but if I could change it I would have had the story distinguish more clearly between (a) downloading a TV show that originated as analog cable TV (and in reduced-resolution format) in six or seven hours and (b) downloading full-resolution HDTV, which would take maybe ten times as long or longer. I did the former; life is far too short for me to experiment much with the latter.
The whole argument for the broadcast-flag regime is that downloading full-resolution HDTV was going to be easier than downloading digitized analog television. What's easy to demonstrate is that downloading even lower-resolution analog-originating television is hugely time-consuming -- the problem only gets (much) worse with HDTV. In effect, HDTV's huge and inconvenient file sizes are themselves a protection against digital piracy.
[Note: This post has been edited slightly for clarity.]
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